Night Fishing For Walleye: 10 Expert Tips From a Top Guide

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Just because the sun goes down, doesn’t mean you should pack in your fishing tackle and call the fishing trip over. Walleye are still just as active, if not more so, when the sun goes down. In fact, with the right gear and these handy tips, you can still catch fish and might even land the biggest walleye of your life during a night fishing trip.

Night Fishing Tips for Walleyes

Whether you are an old pro at night fishing for walleyes or are planning on experiencing night fishing for the first time, here are 10 tried and true fishing tips for preparing for and enjoying your night fishing for walleyes trip.

1. Find Your Spot Before Sundown

During the daylight, seeing buoys, submerged debris or structures, and rock outcroppings in shallow areas is much easier – but at night, everything changes. While big walleye might have excellent night vision, humans don’t; so instead of wandering around at night trying to decide on a suitable fishing spot to catch walleye, ensure you know exactly where you will be night fishing for walleyes in the daylight hours.

The best walleye anglers will look for weed beds or other areas where smaller baitfish may gather since where there are baitfish, there will be walleye coming up from the deep water and waiting to ambush them for a meal. Night walleyes will hang around in shallower water during the night to ambush the fish that make up their diet, so don’t waste your time night fishing in deep water.

2. Less Gear is Better to Start

You might think bringing your entire selection of tackle and a dozen rods is a great idea when night fishing for walleyes, but it can end up being more hassle than it’s worth. Walleye anglers of all experience levels should keep their gear simple to start with, and expand into more or different gear in future night fishing trips.

Limit yourself to a few pre-tied walleye rigs and one or two rods made to catch walleye. You can also bring along a few different hard baits to switch out to in an attempt to catch walleyes. More gear cluttering up the boat deck can end up being a tripping hazard, or may simply create noise that can scare fish away.

3. Choose the Right Bait

Night walleyes love to ambush minnows and other small baitfish, so consider using minnow-imitating crankbaits. Not only can you cover a lot of water with a crankbait, but the minnow imitation will get the attention of walleye quickly and easily. If you don’t like using crankbaits, go for some favorite vertical jigging with a minnow tip and just let the deep water walleye come to you.

Walleye will ambush prey from the deep water below, so don’t let your lure sit on the bottom of the water at all. Go for midwater or topwater type lures. If your lure isn’t staying in the middle of the water column, try switching to something more suited for vertical jigging or floating more in the walleye’s strike zone.

Regardless of the water clarity, using dark colors including black, blue, and purple on your baits and lures have been shown to attract more walleyes than bright colors. This is due to the fact that dark baits contrast better with the light sky and walleye can target the bait easier when fishing in lakes and rivers.

4. Remain Stealthy

Since walleye will be moving from deeper water and gathering in shallow water at night to ambush their prey, you want to remain as quiet as possible when fishing for them. Sounds are amplified through the boat and into the shallow water, so thumping around on deck won’t do anything but scare away more fish.

Keep your lights and lanterns low and pointed away from the shallow water of the lake until you are actively fighting a fish on the line, and ensure your outboard motors are kept off until the fishing trip has come to an end. If you must move to locate fish, consider investing in noise-dampening electric trolling motors to slowly move from one fishing area to another.

5. Know the Moon Phases

Most anglers swear by the phase of the moon changing how active the fish are, and the best times are around the phases of the full moon and the new moon. One of the biggest benefits to the full moon is that visibility will be slightly increased as the bright moon creates a nice glow on things around you, including things in the water that hungry walleye can see and take.

Try fishing 3 days before and 3 days after the full moon or new moon phase and compare it to times you have fished in other phases of the moon. Most anglers will notice a higher rate of fish activity during the full and new moon phases of their fishing trips.

6. Cast into Current Seams

Walleye and their prey love zipping in and out of current seams. The slow change of water flow increases aeration in lakes and brings more oxygen into the shallow water of those lakes for the fish. Pay attention to the water surface rippling differently in the moonlight and try casting into that area. It will not only help move your bait and lures around, but can deliver your bait right into the hunting zone of a hungry walleye.

In addition, the cooler water in this area can help make more fish active during the summer as the high temperatures in the daylight hours send them to much deeper and cooler water. When the water is cool, fish will be more active and willing to take your bait.

7. Use Bigger Baits

When fishing at night, as well as when fishing in the fall, use lures or baits with a larger profile. Not only does this make it easier for the walleyes and other fish to locate your bait in the darkness, but also entices the appetite of hungry fish in the fall. You want your bait to move a lot of water and catch the attention of big fish in the area, so ditch the dainty lures and go for something with a bit of size on it.

8. Be Patient

While walleyes are excellent night hunters, they can sometimes be a bit slow to react in the dark. They love having easy targets, which means you might not have much to do from the boat except sit and wait until the fish is caught on the hook.

Additionally, walleyes will hit your bait with their heads or tails before striking and getting caught on the hook, giving you the feeling of a vibration on the rod. This is when you know a walleye is interested in what you’re offering and you can actively start toying with the fish by moving your bait gently through the water.

9. Use Different Casting Angles

When anglers are trying to locate where the fish are hiding, casting at different casting angles and covering as much water as possible is a great way to pinpoint walleye and other fish hiding spots. You might find walleyes are actively hunting closer to shore, or in a more dense vegetation cover.

Try tossing your line out a few times into clear water of the shallows and seeing what takes notice. Walleye may not immediately take your bait, so if you find no action after a few minutes you can try other tactics or consider using your quiet trolling motor to move to a new spot.

10. Return to Favorite Spots

If you have found a successful fishing spot for walleyes on previous nights, try returning there again at a later date. Many times, a tried and true spot will remain just as successful for fishing as time goes on. Walleyes at night are always on the prowl for prey which means you might find some of the same walleyes returning to the same shallows night after night looking for a meal.

Best Gear for Fishing For Walleye at Night

Walleye tends to gather in shallow water at night to ambush their prey.

One of the best tips for night fishing is ensuring you have the proper walleye fishing gear ready long before the light of day turns into the dark of night. This can make your night fishing trip out on the lake or one of your favorite rivers much less stressful, way more fun, and hopefully more prosperous too!

One of the most recommended light rod and reel combinations for walleye fishing at night is a light-medium action spinning rod that is around 7 feet in length and using a 10 pound test monofilament line or a 20 pound test braided line.

This rod length gives you plenty of leverage when fighting to land your fish, as well as offering plenty of power when casting into dense vegetation as well as open water. You’ll be able to easily hit maximum distance when casting even robust lures, and having the finesse you need when casting near shallow weed beds.

For baits and lures when fishing at night, you want to focus on crankbaits that imitate minnows, or jigs that use a minnow tip. Since minnows and other small baitfish are the primary diet of walleyes, a hungry walleye will not hesitate to strike your minnow-imitating lure. If you’re fishing in the fall, one of the best tips is to use larger than average baits and lures to entice hungry fish.

Also keep in mind that walleye will attack their prey from below, so use lures that are made for midwater to topwater fishing. While you might be casting into deeper water, keep your lure around 3 feet deep as you want to ensure the walleye has plenty of room below your lure to come up and ambush it; otherwise they may ignore it or look for prey they can ambush more effectively.

After your rod, reel and lures are ready to go, don’t forget some basic equipment for yourself and your boat. This includes your personal floatation device and other safety equipment, hands-free lamp or headlight, weather radio, emergency radio or cell phones, and extra bow and stern lights for your boat.

If you plan on being out on the water for several hours, be sure to bring extra batteries for your lights and lanterns as well. Finding out your flashlight has died when you need it most is not a great thing to add to your first night fishing experience. Bringing extra fuses for your boat lights can also be beneficial.

Final thoughts on Night Fishing For Walleye

Being ready with your gears and following basic night fishing tips will help your night fishing trip for walleye be safe and fun.

While fishing for walleyes at night may seem intimidating, it shouldn’t be feared. During the night, you can land some of the biggest walleye around without having to deal with the distractions and commotion of other anglers and casual boaters around you.

As long as you follow some basic night fishing tips, your night fishing for walleye trip will be safe, fun and prosperous, especially if you follow the phases of the moon or plan on fishing in the early fall. Mount temporary or permanent lights inside your boat lockers and storage hatches to make retrieving gear much easier, don’t forget to pre-tie your rigs and other fishing tackle before the sun goes down, select a few favorite hard baits to use throughout the night, and consider using fishing rods that have a glow in the dark rod tip to make it easier to notice nibbles and strikes.

Once you get out on the water with the right fishing gear and a few safety precautions, you’ll soon find yourself fighting that big fish on the end of your line. Toss your bait into the shallow water near shore or weed beds and chances are good you’ll notice more walleyes and other fish reacting to your presentation than ever before.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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